East-based army claims control of most of Libya
LIBYA’S east-based army Ahmad al-Mismari said on Wednesday that it had controlled the majority of Libyan territories as the armed conflict with the rival UN-backed government continued.
“The Libyan Arab Armed Forces control 99% of the country, either by having areas where our forces are physically present or by having areas in the range of our air force or artillery,” Mismari, spokesperson for the army, told a press conference in the eastern city Benghazi.
“The army is committed to the ceasefire, but still has the right to firmly respond to any breach to the ceasefire, which explains the clashes that occur from time to time between our forces and terrorist groups,” he said.
The spokesperson also said that the main problem in the country was not economic or political, but a security problem, “caused by militias and terrorists that control certain parts of the country”.
“We aim to eliminate terrorism, dismantle militias and take control of all weapons in the country,” he said.
Responding to a statement issued by the UN Support Mission in Libya (Unsmil) on Wednesday, in which the mission said the east-based army refused to grant permission for its planes to land in Libya, Mismari said that the Unsmil’s planes were “welcome to land in any airport in Libya”.
He said that the army did not grant permission for the airplanes to land in the capital Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport because the airport was “fully controlled by a Turkish military commander, who grants such permission”.
The east-based army had been leading a military campaign since April last year in and around Tripoli, attempting to take over the capital city from the UN-backed government.
The fighting killed and injured thousands of people and forced more than 150 000 civilians to flee their homes.
The rivals agreed to a ceasefire on January 12, but both parties exchanged accusations of breaching the truce.